Dad told to pay up or wed mom

January 18, 2009 4:31:05 PM PST
The state of Michigan is giving a father a choice: pay the medical cost of his daughter's birth or marry the girl's mother. [SIGN UP: Get headlines and breaking news sent to you]

Gary Johnson was billed $3,800 for the birth of his daughter JaeLyn, The Flint Journal reported in Sunday online editions. Johnson is not married to the child's mother, Rebecca Witt.

The Michigan Legislature amended the state's paternity act five years ago to waive birthing costs for a father, if he married the child's mother. A year later, Witt gave birth to JaeLyn. The state paid for the hospital costs because Witt was on Medicaid at the time and is now trying to recover the money.

Jack Battles, the Genesee County Friend of the Court, said the law is an incentive to maintain the sanctity of marriage.

"It's totally up to them," said Battles, whose office enforces paternity rulings, child support and other aspects of family law. Until Johnson can produce a marriage license, "they have to pay."

Johnson and Witt said they want to marry eventually, but Witt said she wants her marriage date to be her choice.

"I don't think anybody should tell me when to get married," said Witt. "I would like to have a nice wedding, and I can wait for it."

Witt and Johnson said they have been struggling since the state started coming after Johnson for the hospital costs. Johnson said he was told he would be billed $500 a month and planned to meet with a caseworker to work out a solution.

"Losing just $10 hurts us," said Johnson, who makes $8 an hour at a Grand Blanc-area nursery. "We don't have a car, we don't even have an oven."

Johnson said he understood the state wants to promote marriage for parents but he respects Witt's position. "It's a woman's dream to have the best wedding she can have," he said.

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